Aching To Be Heard: A Guide For Parents With Grieving Children
"Thank you all so much for your prayers and support. As I go back to school tomorrow, starting a new "first," ima need everybody's love and support. Please don't avoid me or my suffering. Ima need all the hugs I can get tomorrow..."
Three weeks after my father died unexpectedly, I tweeted those words with honest expectation that it would make a difference. I grabbed my backpack, and picked up one foot after another as I begrudgingly got on the bus. Unfortunately, this was just the start of a long journey of grief.
Because my dad had died two days prior to Christmas Break, nobody noticed that I was gone all this time. Nobody truly knew that my life was shattered... and those who did were too afraid to say something. I'm not sure what I was expecting, maybe more than receiving one lonely hug from an ex-girlfriend... you may cringe with me.
Other than that, nobody said anything.
My friends remained silent.
My teachers treated me the same.
My mentors didn't ask to meet with me.
Life went on for everyone else while I was trapped in my suffering.
I was now experiencing the funeral after the funeral... and I was aching to be heard.
This is a common theme amongst many kids who are grieving. Each child is unique in how they respond to loss, but I think one central theme remains true: all kids are aching to be heard—aching to be seen. Sometimes this aching comes out in different ways:
Lying when usually honest.
Bullying when usually unifying.
Silent when usually vocal.
Vocal when usually silent.
Lack of appetite when usually hungry.
Hungry when usually lacking appetite.
Angry when usually at peace.
Peaceful when usually angry.
The changes may be subtle or overwhelming, but one thing must be understood: each child desperately misses that which they loss.
Since losing my daddy, I have had the privilege of walking along side many, many children and teenagers who have lost loved ones. Anywhere from losing parents, to best-friends, to siblings, God has used my story of tragedy to help bring triumph to their lives. One question I receive from parents while journeying with their kids is this: What can we do to help our child feel peace? We don't even know where to start...
Because of this honest question, I have prepared a guide for parents who are desperately trying to connect with their grieving child.
Remember, your child inside is aching to be heard. They aren't shutting out their grief—they are simply grieving in a different way than you may be (more on this in step #3). If you are trying to reach them the way that you want to be reached, you will never have success.
Your child's brain isn't as developed as yours is, so the way they process grief is going to be very different from you. Plus, their experience was different. Even if you both lost the same loved one, their relationship with that individual is different than yours was. This is why it is essential for all parents to listen to the beating heart of their grieving ch